DENVER, Colorado — Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) is a non-profit organization that has been helping communities in need all across the world for the past 40 years. Operating in 75 countries, and indirectly or directly helping 3 million people, MAI has done incredible work improving the living conditions and quality of life in each of these countries. The Borgen Project spoke with MAI’s president, Dr. Ravi Jayakaran about the stages the organization has gone through, what the future looks like and explored the great work of Medical Ambassadors International.
Phases of the Organization
Dr. Jayakaran explains the MAI has undertaken different stages since its advent in 1980, which are, “provision, prevention, integration, consolidation and expansion.” He states that the Provision phase included MAI sending “doctors and nurses on mission trips to provide medical treatment and health care.” Over time MAI realized many of the people who were receiving treatment in these communities were the same ones, time and time again. This led to MAI shifting its approach to a prevention focus.
The prevention phase focused on helping the communities understand the methods of disease mitigation and prevention. Dr. Jayakaran informs that during the prevention phase, “there was a significant reduction of disease and improvement in health.” According to Dr. Jayakarn, during this phase, because of “the close and frequent interaction with communities” helped the MAI to recognize there were many other needs the communities had including, “social development components of health such as general community development, agriculture and income generation.” This realization led to the integration phase.
The integration phase of MAI was a holistic approach in which MAI sought to care not only for the physical needs of the community but the spiritual as well with a Community Health Education and Evangelism (CHE) program. The CHE system is a crucial aspect of the MAI in which volunteers teach community members skills, and then the community members can pass along the lessons.
This CHE system is unique because instead of MAI giving what they believe they need, they ask the local leaders of the communities what they think they need. Once MAI had a good idea of what each community needs, they made “lesson plans on those topics” and taught them to the communities. The lesson plans would consist of topics such as “agriculture, raising chickens, literacy and much more.”
The volunteers then teach the lessons to the community, strengthening them and improving their conditions. Once the community members finish with the training, then they train their community. This system not only empowers the communities to be a part of the change in their community and make it better, but it also breaks the cycle of poverty and creates a thriving and evolving community.
Once MAI had a large collection of different lessons, they moved into the consolidation phase, in which they stored all the lessons for future use for any time they had a community that required specific lessons. With the easy and practical lessons all stored away, MIA was able to move to the phase they are in now which is the expansion phase.
Dr. Jayakarin states that MIA plans to expand to the regions, “North East Asia, South East Asia, Middle East and North Africa, The Lower Caribbean and South America.” Along with new regions and countries, the organization is moving to, they are also moving to new programs such as, “relief response, traffic prevention, women-focused programs and MAI academy.”
According to a 2021 report, the new programs are off to a great start. MAI’s relief program has already positively impacted the lives of many people across the world. After the 2021 earthquake in Haiti, MAI supplied tents and building materials to the country in response. MAI significantly helped Nigeria and the Philippines in 2021 as well. The organization “provided assistance in response to violence in the African country and immediate food provisions to thousands who had lost everything in the typhoon that hit several islands of the Philippines.”
MAI’s programs against trafficking have been effective as well. CHE volunteers in certain regions are grouped with local abolitionists to create “culturally appropriate training materials for the CHE communities and partners in the specific area.” MAI is also responsible for producing 1,000 children’s books on the topic of child sexual abuse, with its sister organization Medical Ambassadors of Canada Association (MACA). Together with MACA, both organizations culturally adapted and translated the books for Haiti, Nigeria, Ghana and the Philippines.
One example of MAI’s impactful work is the Saferas, who were a group in northern India that relied on snake charming as a main source of income. Over time, the government of India banned the capture of snakes leaving the Saferas with no source of income. Change happened when Kamlesh Rani, a proponent of CHE started to introduce it to her community. Now after the CHE influence, the Saferas are “organized and empowered to manage their own affairs” including businesses and becoming self-employed. After the influence of the CHE, disease has been reduced and education has been sought with greater interest.
Overall, MIA has changed the lives of many across the world. Its impact is far-reaching and powerful. Not only do they help people with their physical needs but they also help people spiritually as well. The great work Medical Ambassadors International has accomplished is inspiring and a bright light in this world.
– David Keenan